Trembling With Fear – Slaying Christmas 2019 Edition

“It’s the most wonderful time of the year…with scary ghost stories and tales of the glories of Christmases long, long ago…”

So goes the familiar refrain of the popular holiday song—and for years, telling scary ghost stories on Christmas was a popular tradition. Victorians loved their spectral tales during the holidays, and Charles Dickens popularized their telling in the Christmas editions of the magazines he edited. We’re well-versed in the cautionary ghost visits in A Christmas Carol, but a quick search of Victorian Christmas horror will provide a reader with many other examples.

In our family this year, we’re gathering around the fire with a classic from Seth’s Christmas Ghost Stories (Biblioasis). These miniature books are the perfect length to read out loud.

If you’re inclined to follow this spooky tradition, why not begin with our very own Christmas Special edition? Whether you’re looking for holiday hijinks, naughty children, Christmas vampires, or the consequences of political correctness, TWF has you covered. And each of these stories is perfect for reading to your rapt relatives after dark—perhaps after the younger kiddies have gone to bed.

In The Subversive Elf, Robin Pond creates a conundrum in Santa’s workshop. You’ll never absentmindedly sing Last Christmas without thinking of Kristi Petersen Schoonover’s tale of unrequited love. And Mark Tulin’s An ECT Christmas takes us on a surreal trip to the holidays, hospital-style. Jessica Shannon asks, “Merry Christmas or Happy Holidays?”—and your answer is critical.

Rounding out the special edition are weird and wonderful submissions from Dawn De Braal, Zoey Xolton, Steven Holding, DJ Tyrer, Kevin M. Folliard, Radar DeBoard, and Steven Gepp.

Thanks to all for the exceptional submissions!

I’m hoping 2020 brings us lots of scary ghost stories, and tales of zombies, cosmic horror, vampires, and spooky atmospherics.

What am I wishing for? How about more Unholy Trinities and Serials—you write ‘em, we’ll read ‘em! Submit them directly to me if you’d like, at [email protected].

Finally, I wish all of you the happiest of holidays (ok, I’d better say Merry Christmas, right Jessica?)—and a happy, healthy, and creative 2020! Now bring on the scary ghost stories!

Catherine Kenwell

Editor, Trembling With Dear

There has long been an association with Christmas and horror. From ‘A Christmas Carol’ to ‘The Nightmare Before Christmas’ it has been proven time and time again that they go together like peanut butter and jelly!

To help you celebrate the holiday and get you in the mood for some Christmas miracles, we’ve got a few presents in the form of Christmas-inspired stories for you to read and enjoy!

Happy holidays one an all.

Stuart Conover

Editor, Horror Tree

The Subversive Elf

The Overseer nods contentedly as he looks out over the countless rows of elves seated at long tables, assembling toys with military precision.  Their heads down; their brows knit with concentrated focus; their tiny fingers a blur of rapid dexterity.  But at the assembly table for the XL-27 Flanker Jet Fighter, the elf responsible for securing the left wing is instead fiddling with a different project while a large heap of one-winged XL-27’s quickly piles up beside him.

The XL-27 is one of the most requested items this year.  A magnificent toy, complete with twin electric motors, a 3-level speed control system, rockets that actually fire, even a display stand.  Any production delay is unacceptable.

“Karl, who told you to do that?”

“Nobody told me.  I’m acting on my own initiative.”

The Overseer pulls himself up to his full 4’3” height, towering over the seated elf.  “Initiative’s fine, but it shouldn’t be exercised without explicit orders.”

But Karl ignores the rebuke.  He proudly sets down his miniature screwdriver.  “There.  It’s done.  It’s just a prototype, mind you, but it’ll work this time.  I’m sure of it.  After all these years, I’ve finally managed to perfect the ultra-toy.

“Ridiculous!”  The Overseer scoffs.  “The toy of toys, the toy to end all toys.  The ultra-toy is just a myth.”

Karl holds up a greyish brick-like object.  “I call it ‘the imagitoy’.”

The overseer takes the toy from Karl, examining it skeptically.  “Doesn’t look like much.”

“You have to use your imagination.  It has receptors that take their feed from the right-brain neural patterns.  It feeds off the imagination of the child, or person, holding it.”

The Overseer shakes his head.  “This is no XL-27 Flanker Jet.  I don’t anticipate much demand.”

“But,” Karl objects, “have you never watched a young child opening up a Christmas present?”

“Of course I have.  We do market research all the time.  The excitement, the look of joy in the child’s eyes.  The little shrieks of pure ecstasy.  That’s why we’re in this business, Karl, to fulfill that insatiable need.”

The Overseer points out the growing pile of XL-27’s in need of left wings, but Karl refuses to return to his assigned task.  “But when a really young child opens up the present, it’s not the present that holds the child’s interest, is it?  More often than not, little Tommy ends up playing with the box instead.”

“Well, sure, if little Tommy is really young, maybe he doesn’t know any better.”

“Or maybe he doesn’t want to be limited to just one physical idea.”

“Or it could just be little Tommy’s not too bright.”

“No.  Exactly the opposite.  That XL-27 Jet Fighter is just a fighter plane.  It can’t be anything else.  And the child isn’t required to add anything.  It’s already fully specified.  But if the child has a little imagination, the box can be anything he or she desires.”

The Overseer is not impressed.  “So your so-called ultra-toy here is basically like a cardboard box?”

“It’s the same idea.  It taps into the imagination, and then becomes whatever the child wants it to be, whatever little Tommy wants to play with at that point in time.”

The Overseer studies what still appears to him to be a greyish brick.  “I suppose we could put it on the list.  What about assembly time?  Would there be any problem meeting the annual demand?”

“But that’s the best part.  With an imagitoy, you won’t need a new one every year.  You’ll only ever need one.”

Several of the elves at the table stop assembling.  “Only one?”

“Sure.  Since the imagination’s constantly changing, the imagitoy is constantly changing.  It never gets old, because it can always be something new.”

The Overseer again appears skeptical.  “But what if it breaks?  Even the XL-27 Flanker Jet Fighter breaks sometimes, and it’s made from space-age light-weight polymer, one of the most resilient plastics available.”

“The imagitoy’s made from thought.  Thought never breaks.”

“You’ve never heard of a mental breakdown?”

Karl’s face scrunches up.  “I hadn’t thought of that.  I think it would still work.  But the toys might be really scary.”

The Overseer holds the brick at arm’s length.  “This is most disturbing.”

“Maybe.  But kids with severe psychological problems probably have bigger issues to deal with than getting a good toy to play with.”

“I’m not talking about troubled children.  I’m talking about your toy.”

Karl nods enthusiastically.  “Isn’t it great?”

“No.  It’s not.  It’s not great at all.”  The Overseer replies angrily.  “What do you think is going to happen to Christmas, if no child ever needs a new toy?  Stop and smell the nutmeg here for a moment.  What are people going to put under their Christmas trees?”

“Maybe they could start a new tradition, and each year each person puts their own personal imagitoy back under the tree right before Christmas.”

“Do you expect everyone just to rewrap them every year?”

“They won’t need to.  They can just imagine that they’re wrapped.”

The Overseer is now holding the imagitoy as if it were toxic.  “This would be a disaster.  Our whole operation might be shut down.  What about your friends here, your fellow elves?  What do you think will become of them?”  All the elves at the table are staring at Karl.

“But don’t you see?  That’s the greatest part.  After centuries of slavishly building toys, struggling to keep up with spiralling demand as the world’s population grows and becomes more affluent, now, finally, we can put down our tiny tools.”

The Overseer now addresses the elves directly.  “This is worse than free trade.  He plans to take away your jobs.  You’ll all be unemployed!”

“You’ll all be liberated.  Elves are born free, yet everywhere they are in workshops.  It’s time to shake off the yuletide shackles.  To do anything you want.  What is it you most love to do?”

“Assemble toys.”  The elves respond without hesitation.

“Yes.  Of course.  But isn’t there anything else you like to do besides assembling toys?”

“We also like to wrap them.”

“This man here wants to rob you of your livelihood.”  The Overseer declares.  “He wants to destroy the sacred Christmas gift-giving tradition.  He wants to put you out to pasture with the reindeer.”

“Everything changes.”  Karl argues.  “Even the need for gift-giving.  Consumerism couldn’t be expected to last forever.” 

“Get back to attaching the left wings,”  the Overseer commands.  “I’ll take care of this thing.  We’ll let the Emerging Ideas Committee study it for a few years.”

Karl, not willing to see his creation buried in the elfin bureaucracy, lunges desperately at the Overseer, attempting to snatch it away.  But the Overseer jabs Karl in the chest with it.  Karl screams in convulsive agony, collapsing on the floor. 

The Overseer holds up the imagitoy and admires it.  “Well wrap me in red and call me jolly!  It really works!  A GD-X-101 three million volt stun gun.  State-of-the-art.  Magnificent.”

Karl, sprawled out on the floor and still shaking, protests weakly.  “Why?  Of all the things you could’ve imagined.  Why that?”

“Because it’s what I really, really wanted.”  The Overseer then imagines the toy to be enclosed in a safe for which only he knows the combination.

Even as Karl is led away by security elves, he refuses to admit defeat.  “Sooner or later, imagination will triumph over the world of things.”

But the Overseer smiles contentedly as he surveys the endless tables of elves.  “The triumph of imagination is in imagining bigger and better things to have.  And no matter how much we have, we can always dream up more things to want.  Imagining leads to wanting and wanting quickly turns into needing.  That’s the true Christmas miracle.”

 

 

Robin Pond

Robin Pond is a Toronto-based playwright and fiction writer. His plays, mainly comedies, have received hundreds of performances and publication with Eldridge and YouthPLAYS and in numerous anthologies. One of his full-length plays, The Retirement Plan, was optioned to be made into a movie and he has co-written the screenplay. His mystery novel, Last Voyage, was published as an ebook in 2018. He has recently had three short stories published in magazines and an anthology and has a fourth story pending publication in the spring.

Last Christmas

A year ago this December, just hours after I proposed, my girlfriend Jessie died in our bed.

I’ve never told the truth about what happened. Not to anyone. Especially not here in Silver Gap, where I’d moved this past summer to escape it. Although, I suspect I’m in good company. Vest-pocket towns harbor more secrets than urban sprawls. Like what’s beyond the massive, locked metal barrier at the end of my street. There’s a rusted mailbox out front. The postman never stops.

I don’t think on it much. Never asked the realtor as she’d handed me keys and a gray “Welcome!” envelope. A scant few days after I arrived, I went to the town’s apple festival, and found distraction in my current friend-with-benefits Haddy. She’s a stunning beauty, round-faced, voluptuous—like Jessie. Her dark eyes, though, are sometimes sad.

There’s definitely an untold tale there.

I probably won’t hear that story, now. Head throbbing from a late whiskey binge, I note a fog cottoning the stand of leafless trees across the street. Yesterday’s snow is melting. Haddy’s a White Christmas gal, and the holiday’s tomorrow. It may be insignificant compared to the let-down she suffered last night, but I’m sure it’s a disappointment all the same.

I knew she wanted more. I saw it in how she looked at me when we were having sex, felt it in her hand on my back as the morning coffee brewed. I’d been careful not to give her mixed signals, but it all came to a head at the tree lighting.

Haddy and I were at the hot beverage stand; strains of “Blue Christmas” playing from a nearby speaker. The night was bitter and snowy. She looked cute in her fur. “All I want for Christmas is you,” she said.

I knew what she meant. I didn’t want to go there. “Don’t be corny.”

“No, really.” She nudged me. “Don’t … don’t you want more?”

“Look.” My gut seized. “I don’t … feel the same way about you that you do about me.”

Over the rim of her steaming cup of hot chocolate, I saw the hope in her eyes die.

She nodded sadly. Then she walked away.

I just watched.

Worse, I lied. I just didn’t want a repeat of last Christmas.

I knew it was bad form to give Jessie an engagement ring on a major holiday—guys figure they don’t have to buy other gifts if they give the ultimate one. At that time, Jessie had been absent: at work, out with friends, volunteering. Every night, somewhere else. By her own admission, her freneticism filled a hole. She always wanted a husband. If I married her, things would change. She’d always be home, always with me. I had to have her.

Forever.

Jessie said no. Told me she was in love with someone else. That we’d talk in the morning. I couldn’t bear the thought of anyone else having her, or passing her on the street as she beamed while holding the hand of a child that wasn’t mine.

I remember that gut-punch. Can still feel it now.

Jessie snored. How could she do that? I watched the clock, each passing minute one closer to her permanent absence. Rage and sorrow overwhelmed me. I cried and squeezed the pillow until my knuckles were sore.

I couldn’t bring myself to go through that again. Haddy was a sweetie.

My doorbell rings.

Haddy’s on the doorstep. “I know it’s because someone broke your heart, and you never got over it.” She looks drained. Her eyes are red and puffy. “I can help. The Christmas Tree Graveyard isn’t just a place to dump your trees.”

“What are you talking about?”

“Walk with me.”

It’s Christmas Eve. The least I can do is finish this more gracefully.

We stop in front of the metal barrier at the end of the street. “There’s a tree graveyard back here?”

“Yes.” She uses a key to pop open the ancient padlock. “You have a key too. Everyone does. In your welcome packet.”

Oh yeah. The envelope. I’d never looked in it, assuming it was full of social obligations I didn’t want to meet.

The gate groans as she pushes it open. “Silver Gap’s founders lived here. It was a big family, huge house, lots of kids. One year, there was a fire on Christmas Eve. Everyone died.” We walk down an overgrown drive. Weeds thrust through broken pavement. “For years, people put live, decorated trees here in their memory, but over time, it devolved into a place to dump all our used ones. The ground has had power ever since. It grants … wishes. I know it works. I asked for a boyfriend. Three days later, you showed up. You can ask it to help you feel better.”

I don’t know how to tell her how ridiculous that sounds.

We come to a small lot, framed in the crumbling, charred remains of a foundation. It’s heaped with the remnants of hundreds of Christmas trees, a tangle of twigs and trunks. Forgotten strands of tinsel twist in the frigid breeze, shards of shattered ornaments litter the ground.

“This,” she says, “is where past Christmases die.”

I’m skeptical.

Until I hear echoes of “I Saw Mommy Kissing Santa Claus” clashing with “I’ll Be Home for Christmas,” the giggle of children, the crunch of tearing wrapping paper, squeals of glee and the contented voices of sleepy parents. “Holy shit.”

“Just make a wish.” Haddy pats my shoulder, and walks away.

To hear Jessie’s voice just once more. I hadn’t considered that part. That oh my God I miss her part, before it all happened.

I take a deep breath and close my eyes.

All I hear are the jubilations of the past. Then it fades into an eerie winter silence, and Jessie’s voice is clear.

Why did you kill me?

 

Kristi Petersen Schoonover

The twenty-foot Christmas trees of Kristi Petersen Schoonover’s childhood always met their ends in a forgotten corner of the creepy Connecticut woods. Her short fiction has been featured in several magazines and anthologies. She holds an MFA from Goddard College, co-hosts the Dark Discussions film podcast, and helms the dark literary journal 34 Orchard. Meet her at www.kristipetersenschoonover.com.

Website: https://kristipetersenschoonover.com/
Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/Kristi-Petersen-Schoonover/e/B0046Z8VYW
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/kpschoonover
Twitter: https://twitter.com/KPSchoonover

An ECT Christmas

It is the day before Christmas, and I sit hunched in a wheelchair waiting for another round of Electroconvulsive Therapy or ECT for short.  The doctor had said that my depression is no longer treatable with medication or therapy; that I have reached a point of no return.

For the past few years, I have sunk deeper into depression, a place where I have grown complacent, perhaps even comfortable, and have often thought that being in a hopelessly depressed state is my true destiny.

The ancillary staff huddle around the doctor, secretly discussing how they should proceed. They are wearing green and red elf hats and are jovial even though they are about to send electricity through my poor, dysfunctional brain.

“ECT will help you to recover what you’ve lost,” the doctor promises with a sly grin.

“But I like where I’m at,” I whisper back.  “I don’t hurt anymore.  The past doesn’t torment me. The future doesn’t seem so scary.”

The doctor condescendingly shakes his head in the negative.  He disagrees with my assessment. He believes that where I am at is unacceptable and that I could do a lot better if I become more motivated to get better.

The doctor wants me to smile even if I don’t feel like it.  I tell him that I have no interest or desire to be happy.  “Just give me more sadness,” I say.

As I lay on the ECT table, staring up at the bright fluorescent lights, I hear the voices of my wife and son. I hear the soundbites of my past.

“Your dad is in a place where they will help him,” my wife says to my nine-year-old son, Eddie.

Eddie wants me home to set up the trains and to take him sledding down the hill around the corner.  He wants to sit on my lap while we watch A Charlie Brown Christmas.

“Sorry, Eddie,” I mutter to myself with drool hanging down my lips. “I’m going to be stuck in the hospital for quite a while longer.  But I’m sure you and your Mom will have a good Christmas without me.”

“Are you alright?” the orderly asks as he sees tears bulging from my eyes.

The orderly wheels me into the well-lit ECT room, where I will get another series of jolts to my brain.  More ECT.  More burning of brain cells. That’s what I look forward to every Wednesday afternoon because the doctor and his wonderful staff have done an excellent job of nurturing my masochism.

The staff sets up their equipment, too busy to notice that my eyes are rolling in my head.  The doctor stands tall in his well-tailored black suit.  His gray oxfords glisten from a new shine as he gives everyone wearing green and red elf hats instructions.  He looks like Boris Karloff and flashes me another condescending smile that he seems to enjoy.  “Everything will be alright, Nicholas,” he says.  “We have a great staff, and will do their best to make you feel comfortable.”

The doctor thinks he is easing my anxiety, but I have none.  I have no fear.  I feel no pain.  I’m like a pincushion that you could stick needles in all day, and I wouldn’t complain one bit.

“These treatments will really help you, Nick,” the nurse promises and looks down at me with her sparkling blue eyes.

I doubt it very much, I respond without words.

“I’m going to put this rubber guard between your teeth, so you don’t bite your tongue.”

The staff sounds so sure of themselves in their sweet voices of denial.  But after years of being in rooms like these, I don’t see any reason to continue the charade. I respond only with a shrug of the shoulders and obediently bite down on the hunk of rubber.

The doctor turns the knob and controls the amount of electricity that shoots through my brain. My limbs shake, and my chest thumps-up-and-down uncontrollably.  I don’t feel a thing.  It’s as if I’m floating from the ceiling, looking down at a stranger whose body is a wild salmon flapping on the table.

My brain sizzles like burning steak.  I could smell the frying brain cells, and stare at the doctor’s dark eyes while he turns up the voltage with his long, bony fingers. He’s so smug that he thinks he holds the secret of the universe in his hands. He takes pride in giving me just enough electricity without killing me.

I hear my mother say, “Never in my wildest dreams did I think you’d end up here, Nick.”

It’s as if having depression and being in the hospital is a character flaw.  She always wanted the perfect little boy.  God knows, I tried.  It was impossible to meet her ridiculous expectations, so I gave up.

“I guess I’m just your pathetic son who doesn’t know how to cope with the world, mom.  Of course, you had nothing to do with my demise.  Those beatings that you gave to me with a belt were for my own good, I guess.”

The doctor turns the electricity higher, and I continue to flop wildly.

Several months ago, I sat in the doctor’s office with my wife, and I remember her agreeing to all of this.

“ECT is a last resort,” the doctor said to my wife, who has power of attorney.  I watched her sign the papers for a series of eight treatments.  There was a glint of hope in her eyes as she crossed the last “t” of her name.  She believed that we could still have a life together; I’d come home, and we’d be a family again.

Well, no such luck, my beautiful and loyal wife.  A few more shocks.  A few more convulsions.  I bite down on the rubber mouth guard and wonder where I could go this time in my mind; what planet I could travel to in my crazy imagination as the doctors pump more rivers of voltage into me.

My brain is a muddle now of static electricity that could probably light up this entire hospital.

Please be so kind, I implore the staff as a shroud of smoke rises from the table.  Do away with my body and spirit altogether.  Try not to leave my soul behind. Please, burn me to a crisp and dispose of me as you wish.

The doctor shuts off the machine, and the staff wearing green and red elf hats are in clean-up mode, frantically preparing for the next lost soul.

Bent over in a wheelchair, and back in the hallway again, I can hear a radio playing Christmas classics sung by Bing Crosby.  I can see a silver tree decorated with colorful Christmas ornaments and slivers of tinsel glistening. I can see a star blinking at the top of the tree, and I can feel my brain stopping and starting. I feel nothing when I think of Christmas. I know what it means to Eddie, but I have no sentimental attachments to it.  All I know is that I am as empty as one of those shiny ornamental bulbs. My breathing is as shallow as a December night. My heart is barely beating. Strings of drool fall from my lips like a beautiful harp that only Christmas angels could play.

Mark Tulin

Mark Tulin is a former family therapist from California.  He has a poetry chapbook, Magical Yogis, and two upcoming books, The Asthmatic Kid, and a poetry collection, Awkward Grace. He has appeared in Fiction on the Web, Free Verse Revolution, Leaves of Ink, among anthologies and podcasts. His website is Crow On The Wire and twitter, @Crow_writer.

You Say Merry Christmas

The Clover family didn’t say Merry Christmas to the man in the worn Santa suit with the heavy red satchel. They said Happy Holidays.

The man’s mouth formed a smile as his white mustache scratched his upper lip.  The family of four stood in their doorway, framed like a picture of holiday perfection you would find on a card. Mom in her blue snowflake sweater. Dad in his black snowman sweater. A young boy of eight in a green tree sweater. And the youngest, a six-year-old girl, in a pink cat sweater.

The Clovers were his family for the night.

Every year the feelings started in October. Christmas creeped in as fall leaves died and fake snow flurried.  Summer soaked iced tea changed to peppermint mocha madness coffee.  Plastic Halloween skeletons and goofy faced jack o lanterns were banished to clearance sections of the big box stores. It was a jarring sensation to hear the sounds of haunted mansions and screaming ghosts replaced with the sounds of jingle bells and church choirs. Once the season started there was no going back.

It continued with the suit. The dusty red St. Nick monstrosity kept in the attic until Black Friday. He moved it to the table in the upstairs hallway, then to his chair by the mirror, and finally next to him in bed. When he had stared at it long enough, he put it on, savoring the way the velvet material slithered against his flesh.  He had been wearing it every night in December, sometimes falling asleep with it on. Stains inched up its sleeves. He laughed as he tried to scratch them away, knowing there was no use. Fruitcake remnants, chunks of patchy glitter, and strands of black hair woven into the thick, fluffy, white trim.  Memories of Christmas’ past.

Once it was Christmas Eve he could wander neighborhoods without judging eyes. He was careful to not draw attention to himself in his own community. Besides, the houses in his development were too small. Their walls were thin, rooms were close, and the families who occupied the homes were already lifeless.  He set out after dark and walked until he came to the place his mother used to show him as a child.

Starrington Estates. Houses looked like hotels waiting for guests to show up.  Christmas lights blurred together into nothingness. The lights were so bright they numbed his face. Or maybe that was the sleeping pills his mother put in his chocolate milk.

“This is what I want from Santa, Alex,” his mother smiled as she parked their rusted station wagon in front of a brick mansion. He could see a family gathering around a table inside.  “Someday, you’ll bring me here for Christmas dinner.”

“I’ll meet you here, Mom,” he gurgled as the twinkling lights went dark and sleep became familiar and deep.

She snuggled against him in the cold car, her ebony hair tickling his face. Her voice started off strong but it soon faded into his dreams. “You say Merry Christmas, Alex. If you say Happy Holidays, someone will kill you. You say Merry Christmas. You say Merry Christmas. You say Merry Christmas…”

The Clovers invited him inside quickly. This was the fun part. The part of the evening where they still had hopes and dreams. Christmas lists left checked.  Unopened towers of gifts sat under the tree, waiting for their recipients. Most families assumed he was a gift. Some kind of Christmas surprise from Bob in accounting, or from Uncle Darren the third. He couldn’t remember all the names anymore. Pierce. Muffy. Brad. Chet. Heather.

“Who sent you?” the little boy in the green sweater glanced up from his phone.

“Mrs. Claus,” he struggled to drag the satchel across the hardwood floor.

The Clovers’ laughter filled the giant house.

He inched toward the large illuminated Christmas tree and placed his bag in front of it.  He placed his hands inside the velvet sack, careful not to make any sudden moves. The littlest Clover, the one in the pink sweater with cats dancing on it, frowned. She gazed at the lumpy mass of red fabric on the floor. Her eyes tried to X-ray what was inside of it. What could he possibly be grabbing? She knew it wasn’t presents. Her eyes met his and he winked. She gripped her mother’s arm, but her mother pushed her away, taking another sip from her champagne glass.

There was always one of them who figured it out before the others. She’d have to go first.

“So, I guess Santa has something for us, huh?” Mr. Clover put his arm around his wife and they exchanged a glance. Mrs. Clover giggled as she struggled to hold onto her husband. She would go second.

The doorbell rang and the man watched as Mr. Clover left his wife to answer it. The little girl looked at her brother who was too caught up in his phone to notice her nervousness. He’d go third.

“Happy Holidays Mrs. Claus!” Mr. Clover’s voice boomed.

The old woman shuffled into the enormous living room. Her white wig sat askew on her head and Alex could clearly see the black hairs peeking out from her temples. The bright lights from the Christmas tree deadened his face.

“Santa, did you hear what the Clovers said to me?”

He nodded.

“What do you say?”

Alex grinned. “You say Merry Christmas. You say Merry Christmas. You say Merry Christmas…”

Jessica Shannon

Jessica Shannon is a writer living outside of Philadelphia whose interests include miniature dioramas, vintage retail, and horror films
from the 1980s. She is currently working on her debut novel which takes place in a dead mall.

Website: www.JessicaShannon.com
Instagram: jessicashannonwrites
Twitter: JShannonwriter

A Visit From A Vampire

(Based on the poem by Clement C. Moore)

‘Twas the night of All Hallows, and all through the house

Not a creature was stirring, and that worried us

The garlic was all hung about our necks with care

For we knew that blood-sucker soon would be there

Each of us were armed with a large crucifix

And with hammers and stakes added to the mix

Plus a pretty young virgin, the bait in the trap

We waited for the end to his daytime nap

From out of the cellar arose such a clatter

But we already knew just what was the matter

We readied ourselves by the door to the stairs

Ready to face that damn creature of despair

We set up our girl, such a pretty young thing

And so when he came up, on him we would spring

But what to our wandering eyes did appear

Through the window came a huge bat, now way too near

With deliberate movements so lively and quick

He was zeroing in on our woman’s neck

As fast as we could, we leapt into action

At least to create a successful distraction

Now jumping, now yelling, and now crosses galore

Now hammers, now stakes of wood, now garlic and more

The flying thing fled, flew across to the far wall

And then it changed appearance before us all

This then was the man we had all come to see

His glare was evil, filled with unbridled fury

He stayed right there, clearly not sure what to say

The crucifixes we held keeping him at bay

His eyes fell on the pretty girl we had brought

But she held her ground, just as she had been taught

Suddenly that enormous bat was there once more

And it flew at great speed through a gap in the door

We knew right away we could not lose this chance

This had to end tonight, this most unholy dance

We chased the creature, all the way to its lair

Unsure of exactly what we would find down there

The staircase we descended was dark and decayed

Huge cobwebs and great spiders often blocked our way

We soon reached the bottom, our torches aflame

This was deadly serious, not just a mere game

A thousand bats flew at us from the ceiling

Our panic was what we were barely concealing

The first attack on us came right out of nowhere

Several young women came out, with long flowing hair

Their teeth were sharp and pointed, their eyes glowing red

They were not quite alive and yet not really dead

We fought with our hammers and crosses and stakes

We knew we could not afford a single mistake

Soon enough there was much death all around us

That was when the vampire appeared from the dust

He struck like a snake, his fist broke some-one’s jaw

His fingernails raking like a monster’s claw

He started after me next, so ready to kill

I could not move, for panic had me frozen still

And then ev’rything stopped, so simple, just like that

Eyes widened, arms were thrown out, and blood it was spat

A stake had been driven from behind, out of sight

Our girl stood there and growled, “Have an eternal night.”

 

S.Gepp

S.Gepp is an Australian who has been writing for a number of years in the horror, fantasy, sci-fi and humour genres. Tertiary educated, former acrobat and professional wrestler, a father of two and well past 40 years old, he hopes to be a real writer when he grows up.

​Christmas Family Dienamics

Jimmy got coal in his stocking. He was known to be an aberrant child.

The bodies all stacked in the corner. How high those bodies, were piled.

His grandparents started the battle, and Jimmy helped them to their end.

The neighbors came over to say “Hello,” Jimmy did not befriend.

His sister said, “What is the ruckus?” She ended somewhere on the top.

His mother and father begged him, but Jimmy was sure not to stop.

The postman came after Christmas. Jimmy did lash him up tight.

His life was spared; once Jimmy declared, he only walked into the fight.

 

Dawn DeBraal

Dawn DeBraal lives in rural Wisconsin with her husband Red, two rat terriers, and a cat. She has discovered that her love of telling a good story can be written.  Published stories with Palm-sized press, Spillwords, Mercurial Stories, Potato Soup Journal, Edify Fiction, Zimbell House Publishing, Clarendon House Publishing, Blood Song Books, Black Hare Press, Fantasia Divinity, Cafelit, Reanimated Writers, Guilty Pleasures, Unholy Trinity,  The World of Myth, Dastaan World, Vamp Cat, Runcible Spoon, Siren’s Call, Falling Star Magazines, and others.

https://www.amazon.com/Dawn-DeBraal/e/B07STL8DLX?

Bitter Punch

The Campana family sat around the hearth, the children enjoying new picture books, while the adults snacked, bantering about work and under-the-table financial gains.

Against the din of Christmas carollers, and the dogs’ rough-housing, they never heard the ancient, hollow-eyed, Krampus creep into the kitchen.

After dinner Mrs Campana poured the punch. “To family!” they cheered.

Christmas morning came—a stagnant, breathless silence hung over the house.

On Boxing Day, their cousins arrived. Letting themselves in, the children dropped their gifts, screaming. Mouths twisted in silent horror, eyes wide, cheeks stained with congealed blood—not a soul had been spared.

Zoey Xolton

Zoey Xolton is a published Australian writer of Dark Fantasy, Paranormal Romance and Horror. She is also a proud mother of two and is married to her soul mate. Outside of her family, writing is her greatest passion. She is especially fond of short fiction and is working on releasing her own collections in future. To find out more, please visit: www.zoeyxolton.com!

Twelve

One through to six were relatively easy (except for five, which proved rather expensive)

Seven was somewhat of a challenge, involving shenanigans in the park under cover of darkness. Eight and nine required some cheating; a visit to the dairy, flinging one more into the mix, then forcing them all to boogie.

Next, ten random dudes (land and titles purchased online)

Orchestrating eleven and twelve was hard, but thankfully a school marching band provided.

A complete collection captured, each awaiting the day of their delivery.

Until she spurned him, leaving him with only one option.

A revolver solved the problem.

 

Steven Holding

Steven Holding lives with his family in Northamptonshire in the UK. He currently has stories featured in TREMBLING WITH FEAR VOLUME TWO, SPLASH OF INK and the anthologies MONSTERS and BEYOND published by Black Hare Press. He is working upon further short fiction and a novel. You can follow his work at www.stevenholding.co.uk

 

Turkey Surprise

Strange slithery sounds interrupt Christmas dinner. Guests, forks halfway to mouths, pause and glance about.

“What is it?” asks Mother.

Nobody can see anything.

Then, something drops down onto the table.

They stare in surprise.

A turkey’s head, sans body, stares back, blood pooling at its base.

“I knew we should’ve gone vegan,” says Mother, hand over her mouth.

They all glance at the ragged turkey carcass on the table. Father decapitated it some days before.

“Impossible,” he says. “Impossible.”

The beak clacks – they flinch.

“Run,” says Mother.

Too late. It leaps at Father, impales him.

Too late, they run.

 

 

 

DJ Tyrer

DJ Tyrer is the person behind Atlantean Publishing and has been widely published in anthologies and magazines around the world, such as Chilling Horror Short Stories (Flame Tree), All The Petty Myths (18th Wall), Steampunk Cthulhu (Chaosium), What Dwells Below (Sirens Call), The Mad Visions of al-Hazred (Alban Lake), and EOM: Equal Opportunity Madness (Otter Libris), and issues of Sirens Call, Hinnom Magazine, Ravenwood Quarterly, and Weirdbook, and in addition, has a novella available in paperback and on the Kindle, The Yellow House (Dunhams Manor).

DJ Tyrer’s website is at https://djtyrer.blogspot.co.uk/
The Atlantean Publishing website is at https://atlanteanpublishing.wordpress.com/

The Herald Angel

On December 25th, a golden-winged messenger appeared across God’s Earth on every screen and device.

“Hark! The Rapture begins! Any who have upheld the standards set by Christ, born this day, shall enter His Kingdom of eternal joy!”

The angel produced a scroll. “Those worthy of salvation are named on this sacred parchment. All others shall be incinerated—souls and all—in Lucifer’s inferno.”

Hearts of the faithful leapt. Skeptics quaked—for even they felt the gilded messenger’s miraculous truth.

The angel unfurled the scroll to show that it was completely blank. He smiled. “It’s gonna be a silent night!”

Kevin M. Folliard

Kevin M. Folliard is a Chicagoland writer whose published fiction includes scary stories collections Christmas Terror Tales and Valentine Terror Tales, as well as adventure novels such as Matt Palmer and the Komodo Uprising. His work has also been collected by The Horror Tree, Flame Tree Publishing, Hinnom Magazine, and more. Kevin currently resides in La Grange, IL, where he enjoys his day job as an academic writing advisor. When not writing or working, he’s usually reading Stephen King, playing Street Fighter, or traveling the U.S.A.

Author Website: www.KevinFolliard.com
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/kevinfolliard
Twitter: https://twitter.com/Kmfollia
Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/kmfollia/

Ending a Tradition

The ten lords danced merrily with their brides around the ballroom. They all anticipated the traditional leaping dance of Christmas eve. A dance that had brought the festivities of the night to an end for over two centuries. Smithson watched from a table covered with lavish foods. It had been the thirteenth year that Smithson had been kept away from his family on Christmas eve. He had grown to despise the lords, which is why he had added something special to the champagne. A smile spread across his face as the lords sipped it. There would be no leaping tonight.

Radar DeBoard

Radar DeBoard is an aspiring writer who just wants others to find enjoyment in his work. Even though he lacks publication and experience, he hopes his work will have an impact. He has a passion for horror and finds it the most interesting genre to write. 

https://www.facebook.com/WriterRadarDeBoard/

It

It flicked its lizard tongue through the crack of the door, tasting the scent of children in the air.

Its mind frenzied by the overwhelming odor, it slowly closed the door and stood alone in the room.

It gazed into the mirror.

Patience, it told itself, the opportunity would come.

A knock on the door.

“Showtime,” a muffled voice called from the other side.

It fluffed its cottony white beard and adjusted its red hat in the mirror.

“Ho, ho, ho.  Merry Christmas,” it rehearsed one final time before facing the line of children at the Maple Hill Shopping Mall.

Lionel Ray Green

Lionel Ray Green is a horror and fantasy writer, an award-winning newspaper journalist, and a U.S. Army gulf war veteran living in Alabama. His short stories have appeared in the anthologies Alabama’s Emerging Writers, The Heart of a Devil, Fifty Flashes, How Beer Saved the World 2, Graveyard, Frightening, Tales from the Grave, In Creeps the Night, and 22 More Quick Shivers. His short story “Scarecrow Road” won the WriterWriter 2018 International Halloween Themed Writing Competition All Hallows’ Prose and his short story “A Tale of Two Shards” was third runner-up in the WriterWriter 2018 International Fantasy Competition Phoenix Rising. His work has also appeared in The Poet’s Haven Digest anthology It Was a Dark and Stormy Night, in Issue 1 of Cross+Decay magazine, and in the 2017 issue of From the Depths magazine as well as in Trembling With Fear, an online feature of the Horror Tree website.

Lionelraygreen.wordpress.com

Santa’s Visit to the Smith’s

Santa Claus quickly slid down the Smith’s chimney. He hurried over to the brightly lit Christmas tree and placed some toys and gifts beneath it.

He spied a plateful of cookies, along with a note for him on a table. Santa bolted down the cookies as he read the note. He chuckled over the misspelled words. His chuckle became a gasp when a piece of cookie lodged in his throat. Santa fell with a thud.

On Christmas morning, the Smiths were dumbfounded by the sight of their children sitting on Santa’s dead body, happily ransacking his bag filled with toys.

Scarlet Berry

Scarlet Berry is a Yooper. She’s been married forty years to the same man and they raised four children together. She is a mystery wrapped up in a conundrum, and loves to laugh; both evilly and happily.

Stuart Conover

Stuart Conover is a father, husband, published author, blogger, geek, entrepreneur, horror fanatic, and runs a few websites including Horror Tree!

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1 Response

  1. I enjoyed reading your stories. You are so talented.

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